Police see it all, but no matter how stoic an officer might seem, some things will always cut deep.
“There’s a different feeling you get when you respond to a call with a child in distress,” said Officer Kevin O’Connor of the Schaumburg, Illinois, police. “It’s just something inside of you.”
O’Connor and fellow SPD Officer Bryan Poradzisz, both fathers of young children, experienced that different feeling March 10, when they got a call about an 18-month-old girl choking on the side of the road.
“I thought of my little girl,” said Poradzisz.
Putting on ‘the hat of a dad’
Before they had arrived at the scene, the outlook appeared bleak for Aureliana Colon.
“She was sucking on her pacifier, but her eyes were rolling to the back of her head,” said grandmother Sonia Melendez.
Melendez had just left a suburban Chicago mall and was about to get on the interstate when her granddaughter started choking.
She stopped the car and called 911, but she was so hysterical that she had to hand the phone off to a Good Samaritan who had also pulled over.
The caller stayed on the line and followed dispatch’s orders until Poradzisz and O’Connor arrived.
“What will always stick in my mind is what that girl looked like,” said Poradzisz. “She was on her back … her eyes were open, her mouth was open [and] she was pale with blue lips.”
As Poradzisz performed the Heimlich maneuver, O’Connor reached down into her throat to clear an air passage.
“You know I think the hat that we have to put on in that moment was the hat of a dad,” said O’Connor. “We do what we would do for our own daughters.”
“Out of my 21 years that was probably the most terrifying event I’ve ever experienced,” said Poradzisz.
Finally, after what must have seemed like an eternity, but in reality was only seconds, there were signs of life, and Aureliana let out a scream.
“It was like the best noise you ever heard,” said O’Connor.
‘They are our heroes’
With Aureliana safe, the two fathers’ thoughts soon turned toward home.
“I just wanted to embrace [my daughter] and hold her,” said O’Conner.
“I gave her the biggest hug and kiss I could possibly give her,” Poradzisz said of seeing his own daughter after his shift. “I was so relieved to have her in my arms.”
Aureliania suffered a febrile seizure caused by a viral infection, according to Melendez. She is now out of the hospital and recovering at home — thanks, she says, to Poradzisz and O’Connor.
“Had not gotten there so quickly, she would not have survived,” she said. “They are our heroes.”
Just don’t tell Poradzisz and O’Connor that.
“I don’t consider myself a hero, because this is what we do on a daily basis,” said Poradzisz. “Our job is to go out there is to protect and serve the community and save as many lives as possible.”
But that doesn’t matter to Melendez.
“They may have been doing their jobs, but they are our heroes.”